The burn rates and valuations of many Web 2.0 companies are predicated on this article of faith: The Web will benefit from a massive share shift as marketers choose the measurable (online advertising) over the not-so-measurable (newspapers, TV, etc.). This is already taking place on a staggering scale.
But what if at least one of the core assumptions — that online ads motivate consumer behaviour — is wrong, or maybe just half-right? That’s the question asked in AdAge this week, on the eve of its Digital Marketing Conference.
Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen argues that search and online classifieds work because they are sought out by people looking for something. But display ads, he says, are unwelcome distractions on the Web, and compare poorly with ads on TV, which are part of a “more relaxing, absorbing experience.” Eye-tracking studies indicate widespread “banner blindness,” or the tendency for consumers to ignore irrelevant content — ads and otherwise — on Web sites. ” Says Nielsen:
There’s huge financial incentive to say advertising works. To say that it doesn’t work — I don’t get anything out of that.
Nielsen has been making this argument for at least a decade. He famously told Art Bin in 1998: “I think the basic point of the Web is that it is not an advertising medium, the Web is not a selling medium, it is a buying medium.”
Does it hold water? Certainly banner advertising had been hit by the perception that it is roundly ignored, but a raft of research concludes that video advertising — even annoying pre-roll ads — has some of the highest recall in the business.